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What is Pornography?

Uncategorized Jul 23, 2019

What is Pornography…

As a therapist that specializes in pornography addiction I am constantly asked
the question “what is pornography?” Many people would think that the answer is
really simple, however, after working with couples that are battling pornography
addiction the answer can sometimes be complicated.

The dictionary defines pornography as “creative activity (writing or pictures or
films etc.) of no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire.” This
definition is actually very helpful and requires rigorous honesty for an addict. When
an addict learns to evaluate how his body is affected by anything they are exposed
to they reach a new level of recovery. Further, an addict will be in a better position
to be sensitive to their spouse and work on choosing healthy ways to deal with it
together.

In the early stages of recovery it is common for many addicts to spend unnecessary
energy trying to define what porn is. Typically when an addict is doing this they
are simply engaging in damage control rather than rigorous honesty about what
is happening in their body, marriage and their recovery. For example, I have
met with many men who exposed themselves to things that were not sexually
explicit or even graphic, and yet their body was stimulated sexually. Usually they
will not report this as a slip because they are afraid of losing their sobriety, or
fearful of what their spouse/group will think. Some are afraid that they will have
consequences from their ecclesiastical leader. In all of those cases that person is
making a decision based on fear, and their effectiveness in recovery is limited. Many
addicts languish in this type of decision making, and have what Geoff Steurer calls
a constant “low grade fever” that can eventually spike into some type of sexually
acting out behavior. Addicts also miss an opportunity to learn how to be connected
to themselves and their spouse when they focus on doing damage control by
minimizing what they saw and its affect on them.

If you have found yourself responding in this way there is a better way. Accepting
that your body is wired to have responses to sexual stimulus, and also that because
of addiction sometimes that response is unique. Accepting that you will strengthen
your recovery by developing awareness of your body’s responses and learning
how to manage your addiction in a connected way will be a turning point in
your recovery in which you will have greater power to protect yourself and your
marriage.

The following example will serve as a guide in helping you to learn how to start.
A client I was working with recently shared how he gained greater power in his
recovery. He shared that he was at work one day with some time to kill. Things
were slow, which made him uneasy and nervous about being able to provide for
his family. Time to kill, and nerves are not a good combination for this particular
client. He decided to check the news. As he looked back he recognized that his

body became tense as he read the news. He pretended to forget that “checking
the news” was a ritual in his addiction cycle. As he scrolled down the main page of
the website, his attention was caught on images of women that were immodestly
dressed. His body immediately sped up. He clicked on one of the images, and in his
mind he thought “after all, it isn’t like I am on a porn site!” The next page had even
more images of immodestly dressed women. “None of them are naked, and I am just
appreciating a woman’s true beauty” he thought. His body, and addiction continued
to speed up. Just then his wife called him. He snapped out of it. His wife noticed that
his attention was somewhere else. Her body begins to tighten and speed up. She
begins asking questions, trying to be trusting, needing to be protected. Husband
tries to distract her by apologizing and trying harder to pay attention. Disconnection
grows. Wife’s body speeds up, and mind begins racing. Husband finds a reason to get
off the phone, feeling numb. Wife is spiraling, and trying to be trusting at the same
time. My client described the rest of the day at work as a struggle. As he reflected
on the whole incident, he was battling inside himself about whether he had crossed
his bottom lines or not. Part of him felt that he definitely had; yet he had not viewed
sexually explicit images so logically he had not crossed his bottom lines. He knew
his wife was tense, and he knew he was the only one who could make her safe again.
He decided to report this as a slip. He went home, and immediately went to his wife
“I have a slip to report” he said. Her body immediately soothes, she doesn’t have to
fight to get it out of him. Maybe she can begin to truly trust him. He tells her about the
deadly combo of time to kill with anxiety and the news site. He calls it a slip. His body
calms, the inner turmoil is gone, and he begins to feel better. He apologizes for zoning
out with her while on the phone. They begin talking about his anxiety and both of
them feel closer, and more connected. He has greater power in his recovery and has
kept his marriage safe.

This example can serve as a guide to strengthening your recovery and your
marriage. I encourage you to reach out and talk about how you have noticed your
body speed up when you are exposed to pornography, in all of its forms.

Exercise:

Fearless Inventory- Please list websites/material that you visit that you can be
curious about or that perhaps you have viewed viewed/read things that you have
justified as not being “porn.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Have these sites/images had more effect on your addiction than you have realized?
If so, please discuss what your learning about with your spouse, group or therapist.

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